BAUCHI, North-East, Nigeria – Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), Professor Moji Adeyeye, has warned against the use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits.
She gave the warning on Monday at the Northeast Zonal NAFDAC media sensitization workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide held at the Federal Secretariat in Bauchi State.
She said the agency has noticed the dangerous practice of the sale and consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide as well as illegal hawking of drugs in the open market.
The DG added that the dangers of ripening fruits with calcium carbide is another public challenge and the agency has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace. “The consumption of fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc, or any other fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to health.
“Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, but the inside remains unripe. You can identify such artificially ripened fruits if you notice that the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark, this is true, especially with bananas and plantains.
“In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly,” she explained.
Prof. Adeyeye further explained that the effects of artificial ripening on fruit quality include but are not limited to considerable loss of properties such as color, taste, and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavor to the fruits.
“These fruits do not possess uniform color and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life while calcium carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process.”
She said calcium carbide generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, etc., that poses several serious health hazards just as consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney, and liver failure.
“They may also cause frequent thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer, and so forth. Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid build-up in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
“Acetylene produced by Calcium Carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia,” she added.
These impurities according to Prof. Adeyeye, are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema (swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids), sleepiness, seizure, etc.
“Calcium carbide is alkaline in nature and erodes the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region and disrupts intestinal functions.
“Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems, and possibly even cancer.
“Other symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea (with or without blood), burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest, difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes/skin, sore throat, cough, shortness in breathing and numbness among others.”
The DG also announced that apart from sensitization campaigns and enforcement activities, NAFDAC has commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by the ripening of fruits with carbides.